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At Intergalactic Arts Studio, 180 Shaw Street, Studio 103, Toronto, Ont.

Created by Magnet Early Years Theatre Company, South Africa

Directed by Koleka Putuma

Design by Nicola Date

For infants 6 weeks old to 12 months.

Ran from May 15-17, 2018.

Scoop was enchanting and so illuminating about theatre, babies and  adults.

 In one of the rooms of the Intergalactic Arts Studio, six infants and their mothers are invited to sit in a semi-circle on cushions in a warm, comfortable tent. Four performers in white jumpsuits with a colourful pocket sit amongst the babies and mothers and interact with the infants closest to them.

One of the performers begins playing a bowl-shaped stringed instrument. The babies are transfixed. And silent with awe. After a while the four sing, make rhythmic noises, create a percussive snapping patter with wood utensils, slurping sounds, bring out small containers that make rattling sounds, dangle silk material above the infants’ heads that delicately glide over their skin, click a little light on and off around them, put coloured light in a bowl and swirl it around and sing the names of each child.

Each ‘exercise’ is long enough to engage the infant but not so long as to overstay its welcome. Knowing when to shift and move to the next moment is one of the beautiful points to this gifted company and their joyful show. At every single turn the infants are engaged, alert and present in the moment. One mother moved her infant daughter’s legs in time to the music. I wondered it the child would learn this on her own or if she got a sense of rhythm from her mother.

At the end of the show, the infants were encouraged to play with all the things that had been used in the show. And they sure did play.

I’ve seen One Thing Leads to Another geared expressly for infants, that played at our own Young People’s Theatre. At that show the babies were engaged and just enraptured. Magnet Early Years Theatre Company from South Africa has their own spin on this kind of theatre that pricks the interest of our youngest audiences and has them for life.

The run for Scoop was very short and alas is over. But the company’s next show Knock

plays at the Theatre Centre May 19-20. In that the music, noise etc. one can make with wood and other materials is explored.

Don’t miss this and the rest of the festival’s offerings.

www.weefestival.ca

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The Wee Festival continues

At various venues in Toronto, Ont.

Mots de Jeux (in French)

Vox Théâtre (Ottawa, Ont)

Written by Sarah Migneron

For children 18 months to 4 years.

Plays May 15, 16.

Three charming performers play three impish children trying to get to sleep. They are in the same bed. They toss and turn. When they wake they play word games, make up songs, engage with their young audience and hold their  attention for the whole of it. After a full day of playing the three naturally are tired and eventually go to bed to rest and be ready for the adventures for the next day.

CutOuts

 Teatro dei Piccoli Principi (Italy)

Created by Alessandro Libertini and Veronique Nah

Performed by Alessandro Libertini

For children 2 years old and up

Plays from May 15-17, all shows are sold out.

We enter the dark space and are greeted by a woman who reminds us we must only whisper.  A man in a ‘lab’ coat of sorts sits reading a newspaper, a scissors in his hand. The floor is strewn with cut out shapes of paper. There is a computer on a table at the back, a large screen centre. There are a few illuminated lamps on tables. Once we are seated the woman says, “Maestro, everybody is here.” The maestro then begins cutting out figures. In the first instance he cuts out a string of figures and unfurls them but it’s done in darkness (at least where I sit at the back) that I can’t see the figures properly.

He takes the string of figures and goes to the large screen in the centre and tacks them to it. He tacks two strings of figures to the screen at which point the screen falls backwards off the aisle holding it. Neither the Maestro nor the woman can fix it in order to prop the screen on it. So the woman stands behind it and hold it up (as best as she can) for the time the Maestro uses it. The Maestro cuts out a tin pie plate and produces a ballet dancer. He puts that on another screen on one of the tables. Ballet dancers seem to be a motif of the show. With clever technology a floating piece of material affixes itself to the figure and thus creates a ballerina in her flowing costume. Another figure is created and revolves as a dancer would. We only see half the figure—is this deliberate or a glitch? I don’t know. The Maestro slowly flips the pages of a book that is projected on a screen—these are sketches of dancers in various poses. The cut outs are clever as is the technology.

Of all the Wee Festival shows I’ve seen so far, CutOuts is the oddest. The description of the show says that the cut outs are influenced by the paper cut outs of Matisse, Picasso and  Hans Christian Anderson. News to me. I didn’t see the connection of any of these cut outs to anything related to these artists. I also thought that the pace and the substance was too sophisticated for an audience of kids who were two-years-old and up. Odd little show.

www.weefestival.ca

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At the Wychwood Barnes, Toronto, Ont.

Concept and directed by Véronique Côté

Set by Erica Schmitz

Cast: Marie-Josée Bastien and Marianne Morrow

Sisters, one happy, one grumpy. The happy sister comes to visit her grumpy sister but finds the house all tied up with red string that makes entering and moving around a bit difficult.  The happy sister managers to solve this knotty problem. She has a lovely bouquet of flowers for her sister but her grumpy sister is not cheered. She’s too cold, unhappy, doesn’t want to eat and would like to eat a cloud.

The two performers are inventive and creative with their many props. Houses are cut out of slices of bread. Flowers grow by magic. The beauty of a flower is celebrated as flowers fly by on a clothes line. In her effort to cheer her sister the jolly sister asked the unhappy one what the word “sister” meant. The unhappy one said, “half a cookie.” What a wonderful image for sharing.  Loved that.

I thought that at 40 minutes the show seemed a bit too long and perhaps the slow pace might have added to that sense. Still the performers have lovely charm.

Presented by Théâtre des Confettes, Quebec.

May 15 (in English) this is the only performance that has ticket for the public.

May 16, 17 (French) Sold Out.

www.weefestival.ca

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The Wee Festival, Toronto, Ont.

The wonderful Wee Festival for very young audiences (and their parents/guardians etc.) has opened this weekend with plays from Quebec,  South Africa, British Columbia, the U.K, France, Germany and Toronto participating.

The festival plays at various venues across the city until May 21.

So far I’ve seen:

 

OGO

From Le Théâtre des Petites Ames (Quebec)

For children 2.5 – 5 years old.

Plays at Théâtre français de Toronto-Studio 21 (21 College St. 6th Floor)

Three strangers have received an invitation from OGO to wait for him at a designated place and he will come and take them away on an adventure. So Olive, Gregoire and Oscar arrive, and wait, and wait, and ditto. They introduce themselves. They make music together; see strange creatures and become friends as they wait.

It’s a beautifully charming, sweet, inventive show that will get the wee kids talking out, offering advice and while not quite yelling out, “HE’S BEHIND YOU!!!” it’s pretty close.

The run is short with the last performances:

Sunday, May 13, at 11 am and 2 pm. (this 2 pm performance is in French and Mother’s Day afternoon Tea will be served after the performance)

www.weefestival.ca

 

Baking Time

From Presentation House and Oily Cart Theatre (British Columbia/UK

 For children 3 years and up.

Plays at the Alumnae Theatre.

Bakers Bun and Bap are making buns and biscuits. They knead dough, toss flour create a dough boat which is passed around the audience as if there is a storm, complete with thunder and get into all sorts of trouble. The show is 55 minutes long because they actually bake buns for the audience and it takes time. The company with two musicians are inventive and engaging, and the buns are yum.

Plays Sunday (May 13) at 2:00 and Mother’s Day Tea will be served after the performance.

www.weefestival.ca

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This is the final weekend of the Wee Festival, an international festival of theatre for young audiences ranging in ages from 0 to 5 years old. Anybody who makes theatre should have seen the shows of this festival to see where their future audiences are.

It was a stunning education to see how subtley and sensitively these theatre artists created theatre for their young audiences. For the most part they were attuned to what intrigued and attracted them. Their respect for their young audiences was astonishing.

Tree/Inuksuk

At the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space

2 + years old.

Two stories about the wonder of nature and the power of the north. Because this show was the first one in English for the narrator she read the story haltingly unfortunately. A few puppets were used to tell the first story. The second story about the north was told using finger puppets, rocks in various formations and sound effects.

The first story was unfortunate because the story teller was not comfortable in English. As such it should have been cut. Some of the effects of the second story were interesting—the building of structures using stones in various configurations and the miraculous creation of a tree from twigs that were suspended in air—but the story went on too long and could do with tightening.

Le Chemin qui Marche, Quebec

Closed: Sat. May 21, 2016

*****

Table Top Tales

At the Theatre Centre Gallery, 1115 Queen St. W.

3+ years old.
After the performers tell one of their family stories, the audience is invited to tell something of their family history. The inventive company of two actors and one lively keyboardist then recreates the story using puppets made of the most common place household items, such as a cloth bag, sunglasses, sponges, a mini-brush, mini-plastic containers and a Polaroid camera. Totally charming and fun.

SNAFU & The Snack Music Collective, Canada

Plays until Monday, May 23, 2016.

*****

Hup

At the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W.

0-24 months

BRILLIANT!

Babies and their parents are led into an inviting, warm, colourful cocoon-like enclosure where they sit on cushions on the floor. Three musicians (two violinists, a cellist) and a ‘cat’ create a world of wonder and discovery in music, movement and wordless storytelling. The ‘cat’ floats ribbons, socks, feathers, soft scarves and all manner of props over the heads of the infants and wee children sometimes just skimming them for a subtle touch. Often the infant would crawl into the action or sit transfixed. Either way, this is theatre that is revelatory for the adult observer and totally engaging for the infants.

Starcatchers from Scotland know how kids work and what will capture their attention; what is appropriate for what age group; and how to captivate their audience, both tall and small. The musicians are superb as is the agile, smiling, impish ‘cat.’

BRILLIANT!

Starcatchers, Scotland.

Plays until Sunday, May 22, 2016.

Weefestival.ca
416-537-4191.

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The Wee Festival: Theatre and Culture for Early Years, May 16-23, 2016.

At various venues.

The Wee Festival is an international festival of nine plays/productions for young children between the ages of 0 and 5 years old, depending on the production. The festival is produced by the wonderful Theatre Direct and its equally wonderful artistic director, Lynda Hill.

Some tell their story wordlessly for the most part. Some tell their story verbally. The worlds of wonder, creativity, art, spoken word, mime and music are introduced to the young audiences with a mix of imagination, respect, adventure and whimsy. The following are short reviews of what I’ve seen so far.

Traces

At the Wychwood Theatre, 601 Christie Street.

For children 2-5 years.

The performance starts in the lobby outside the theatre. A smiling man wearing a hat traces the outline of his hat with chalk on the floor in front of the children. He asks a child to put his/her foot in the traced outline and then traces that foot in chalk. Each child is invited to say his/her name into a microphone. If they are shy, they are respected and are not urged to give their name. We follow a trail of bits of paper into the theatre.

Another man of the company stands by a board and his outline is traced by the first man. Some parts were not traced. That needs attention. More hats are traced on the floor and the two performers (another plays the piano) take turns hopping from one traced shape to another. There are several hats on the floor, each filled with sand. The sand is carefully, artfully poured from the hat onto the floor. The two men trace shapes in the sand with their hands, feet, a tube and a broom. The children are mesmerized. The final component of the piece is the children. They are invited to play in the sand and make their own shapes. At this point no one is too shy to participate.

The show is charming, showing ways of taking ordinary things and making them fun and extraordinary. It pricks the child’s creativity.

Produced by the Helios Theatre Company, Germany.

Plays until May 20, 2016.

******

Nest

At the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgeman Ave.

For children 6-36 months.

A violinist and a singer take the audience on a journey of discovery. A large round structure is in the middle of the playing area. It is covered in a textured soft material. When the show begins, both the violinist and the singer smile at every single child and adult in the room. They make direct eye contact and wordlessly make everybody feel welcome.

The covering is carefully removed and there is an empty nest. The two (women) musicians manipulate the head and hands of a female mannequin who looks off into the distance, waiting for birds to use the nest. The musicians use inventive props to tell the wordless story. Their thumbs fit into holes in a slender wood structure, while their fingers splay out and flutter. Voila, a bird in flight, several in fact. Two birds use the nest and produce eggs that will become the next generation. When the birds are born they try to fly; fall and try again. Soon enough they will leave the nest. The woman watching the nest is wrapped in a blanket at this point, watching the mature birds and their young ones fly away. The children are then invited into the nest to play.

These very young children are totally focused on the two performers as they sing, play instruments, create birds and other things with the simplest of props and tell the story. Totally engaging.

Produced by Theater de Spiegel, Belgium

Plays until May 22, 2016.

*****

Pekka

At the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W.

For children 2-5 years.

Pekka is a turtle who loves bedtime stories as told by his friend Jacinta. But Jacinta tells Pekka that he can’t have a story yet as it’s not night time and the moon isn’t in the sky. So Pekka goes in search of the moon. The journey takes Pekka to talk to the sun; to meet a weasel, a dragon fly; and to go deep into the ocean when he does finally find the moon hiding in a shell.

The story is told by a masterful puppeteer named Isabelle, who creates Pekka with his head on her fingers and his shell wrapped around her wrist. She pulls the sun from a secret place on the set and then parks it for safekeeping in a pocket in the curtain behind her. Various ‘characters’ are pulled from pockets in her black skirt. With one unravelling the black skirt becomes iridescent blue and thus the ocean is created. The storytelling and the artistry are wonderful.

Produced by Le Théâtre des Petites Âmes, Quebec

Plays until May 19, 2016.

********

Under A Different Light

At the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W.

For children 4+ years.

The man and woman who make up the company are charming, agile and creative. The story is about opening doors and letting dreams come in, but I think that might have been a bit esoteric. The beauty of the show is the many images that can be created by light. The couple hold short wands with lights at the tip and pretend to throw the light from one wand to another. As the throw is made, the light on the wand being thrown goes out and the person catching the light instantly turns on his/her wand to illuminate it. Beautifully effect. Small impish lights are used at times. Lights seem to float in mid-air. A back curtain seems to come alive with illumination. The show could be shortened without any damage done to its effectiveness.

La Baracca-Testoni Ragazzi, Italy

Plays until May 19, 2016.

*********
Jumping Mouse

At the Pia Bowman Scotiabank Studio Theatre, 6 Noble Street.

For children 4+ years.

This was the one production of the five I’ve seen so far that is not a success. The premise is to use indigenous folk tales and myths to tell the story of a curious mouse who wants to go on an adventure to the top of the mountain. The mouse is fearful of eagles and is befriended by a buffalo who offers to protect it. Several head masks are used to create the various animals and they are terrific as are the costumes.

What is a disappointment is the structure of the story—it’s too rambling and needs tightening. Also the company of four actors seem inexperienced and either bellow everything or in one case, mumbles and talks in a voice so soft it is hard to make out what is being said. The audience will tell you how well you are doing—they will be silent. This audience fidgeted and thumped the floor with their feet. They were not amused.

Produced by Urban Indigenous Theatre, Manitoba.

Plays until May 19, 2016.

www.weefestival.ca

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